Repeat offender gets 20 years in robbery

Columbia man, 21, also convicted of 2001 assault

October 11, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Tavon Donya Sands, the 21-year-old Columbia man accused of committing a string of crimes, including murder, over an eight-month period, was sentenced to 20 years in prison yesterday for his role in an ambush-style armed robbery and assault.

The sentence was the first imposed on Sands since his arrest on drug and gun charges in May 2001 -- an arrest that was followed over the next several months by charges of gun possession, armed robbery, attempted murder and, finally, in the Jan. 25 murder of DeShawn Anthony Wallace.

Sands has since been convicted in the armed robbery and drug and gun case and acquitted in a separate gun case. The attempted-murder and murder cases are pending.

"The defendant himself, Tavon Sands, poses a threat to the citizens of Howard County," prosecutor Kim Oldham said before Howard Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman imposed the 20-year sentence without comment. "He is incapable of abiding by the laws of the state."

But Sands' attorney, Denis Charlesworth, said his client had a rough upbringing -- a father who was absent and a mother with a drug problem.

"Mr. Sands' youth, which is tragic as it is, explains a lot of why we're here today," he said. Sands has also been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, a condition characterized by persistent hostile behavior, he said. "I would hope no matter what happens today he can get additional counseling."

Sands' involvement in Howard's court system over the past year and a half has been the subject of debate since his arrest in the Wallace killing. Police have pointed to his repeated release to the streets during the months preceding the killing as a failure of the criminal justice system.

Sands was on probation for a previous assault, facing multiple new charges and had been out of jail only a few days, having posted a $50,000 bond in the armed robbery case, at the time of the 23-year-old computer student's death.

Yesterday, Oldham also detailed what she called a "significant, violent" criminal record that started with delinquencies for assault, robbery and attempted murder when Sands was a juvenile.

Convictions for auto theft and misdemeanor assault followed when he reached the adult system, she said. And previous attempts at probation have shown that he will not abide by the terms, Oldham said.

The robbery, she said, was a "violent" one, motivated by drugs.

Sands was carrying a gun and "lying in wait" in an apartment to rob and beat Roy Heard, his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, at her Owen Brown apartment Oct. 1, 2001, Oldham said.

Two other men, Raymond Lawson and Jamar Antwan Johnson, have also been convicted for their roles in the robbery. Lawson was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Johnson's sentencing is pending.

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